wii


Nintendo is slowly phasing the original Wii out of its hardware lineup, announcing today that many of the system's online services will be permanently shut down on June 28.

Don't worry, the Wii Shop Channel will still be available for you to purchase downloadable games and redownload previous purchases. The shutdown applies to the following free online channels, which most users probably aren't using regularly in any case:

  • Nintendo Channel
  • News Channel
  • Forecast Channel
  • Everybody Votes Channel
  • Mii Contest Channel

You'll no longer be able to send messages or Miis to other Wii owners over the Internet, either. Nintendo also said that "message/data exchange within some games will be disabled" but didn't clarify which games this applies to, or whether online gameplay in popular titles like Mario Kart Wii or Super Smash Bros. Brawl would be affected (Nintendo refused to comment on this matter in response to an Ars request).

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We've known since late January that Nintendo had scaled back expectations for the early 2013 performance of its recently launched Wii U. But now, US sales numbers for the system in first month of the year are beginning to leak out and it's clear that Nintendo's latest system is suffering from a monumental post-holiday slump.

While NPD no longer releases US hardware sales data every month, a representative for the tracking firm told Gamasutra that US sales in the system's first three months were down 38 percent compared to the same period for the Wii. That would mean the Wii U has sold approximately 940,000 units through January in the US.

Combine that with the 890,000 Wii U units Nintendo has said were sold in November and December of 2012, and you get a US sales figure of about 50,000 in January alone. That gels with reports from others sources with access to NPD's internal data, who claim the Wii U sold "well under" 100,000 units for the month.

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Regular Ars readers will remember how Nintendo's bafflingly obtuse DRM system forced me to pay $60 to move $400 worth of previously purchased Wii Virtual Console games to my new Wii U. Apparently I should have held out longer, because at least one user is reporting Nintendo eventually accommodated him more when fixing a similar issue.

Last month, Ryan, one host of the Nintendo Fun Club Podcast, chronicled his experience with Error Code 200101, a recurring issue preventing him from transferring $570 worth of Virtual Console purchases from the Wii to the Wii U. Three calls to Nintendo customer support throughout the course of a week seemed to be getting him no closer to having his problem fixed. The whole scenario had Ryan running up against the same $85 Wii "repair" wall I encountered.

Then something surprising happened. As Ryan notes in a follow-up post, his fourth call to Nintendo support left him with a $620 account credit in the Wii Shop Channel—including a $50 bonus for "the inconvenience." Nintendo could apparently also remotely delete the licenses for the games purchased on his Wii system, allowing him to easily repurchase the games he lost. This was especially interesting to me, because the Nintendo customer service rep I talked to told me in no uncertain terms such license deletion was impossible.

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Since Nintendo announced yesterday that it is cutting back Wii U sales projections, some consumers began to wonder if the system, which currently starts at $300, would see a price cut sooner rather than later. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata threw cold water on those hopes today, telling investors that such a price cut would not be forthcoming.

"With Wii U, we have taken a rather resolute stance in pricing it below its manufacturing cost, so we are not planning to perform a markdown," Iwata said in translated remarks. "I would like to make this point absolutely clear. We are putting our lessons from Nintendo 3DS to good use, as I have already publicly stated. However, given that it has now become clear that we have not yet fully communicated the value of our product, we will try to do so before the software lineup is enhanced and at the same time work to enrich the software lineup which could make consumers understand the appeal of Wii U." (Links added for context.)

Translated from corporate speak, the message is clear: "The Wii U isn't too expensive, we just haven't done a good job convincing enough people why it's worth the price."

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While the Wii U won't be an instant flop like the Virtual Boy, sales projections released by Nintendo today show it probably won't match the runaway sales success of the original Wii, either.

Nintendo sold 3.06 million Wii U units worldwide from its November launch through the end of 2012. That's nearly as much as the 3.19 million units of the original Wii Nintendo sold back in the 2006 holiday season.

But Nintendo doesn't think it can keep that momentum up. Back in October, the company said it expected to sell 5.5 million Wii U units through the end of March. That number has now been cut down to 4 million, meaning Nintendo expects to sell fewer than a million systems worldwide in the first three months of 2013.

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Here at Ars Technica, we've had some recent personal experience with how Nintendo's DRM schemes can get in the way of using downloadable titles on new hardware. And now, new details about how the Wii U's Virtual Console will interact with previously purchased titles has us wondering.

As announced last week, the Wii U Virtual Console is a completely separate beast from the one on the Wii. It includes new features like independent play on the touchscreen GamePad, customizable controls, and a connection to the Miiverse social forums. If you want these new features on a game you already bought and downloaded on the Wii, you'll have to pay a small upgrade fee: $1 for NES games or $1.50 for SNES games.

All in all, this could be worse. Sure it's a bit galling to pay again for a downloadable game you already own, but at least Nintendo isn't charging the full price of $5 to $9 for previous purchasers. Plus, you do get some new features for your outlay.

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I'll get those Wii U owners an HD Zelda re-release. Wii U owners LOVE HD Zelda re-releases.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata used a direct-to-consumer Web video presentation today to talk about the company's near-future plans for the Wii U. While the presentation included many new details about the system's upcoming features and games, not many of those announcements could be considered very surprising.

On the features front, Iwata promised that the Wii U would be getting two new system updates in the spring and summer. These updates will include improvements to the Wii U's software launch times and faster switching between system menus, Iwata said. Those have been major gripes for Wii U users so far, but our tests found the loading times were actually comparable to launch titles for other systems.

Nintendo will also be bringing some important updates to the surprisingly robust and interesting Miiverse social networking service. These new features include a browser-based mobile interface, user-created community discussion threads, and a more-robust message filtering system, all of which should help make the service even more useful.

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It all looks so simple in cartoon form...

Last month, when a combination of overly stringent DRM and aging hardware trapped $400+ of purchased downloadable games on my old Wii, I promised I would give an update on the results of Nintendo's $65 repair program. Well, the repaired system came back this weekend, and I was finally able to transfer most of my saved and purchased content over to the Wii U. Of course, the ordeal wouldn't be complete without a few final hassles for good measure.

First, the bad news: the memory problem afflicting my launch-era Wii meant Nintendo had to replace the main circuit board for the system, including all the save data and personal settings that were contained on the Wii's internal system memory. Most of my important save files were backed up to an SD card, but I did lose the uncopiable save files for games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Mario Kart Wii. I'll have to play through those games again if I want to re-unlock the characters and courses I had already earned. Such is life. Frankly, I'm more relieved that my 100 percent completion files on games like Super Mario Galaxy and Punch-Out! were safe.

On the plus side, Nintendo also replaced the disc drive and cleaned the exterior of the system, so my six-year-old Wii is now practically factory fresh. The system came back with a new serial number, too, making me wonder why they didn't just give me an entirely new console when it was clear the memory was shot (then again, maybe they did).

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It all looks so simple in cartoon form...

Last month, when a combination of overly stringent DRM and aging hardware trapped $400+ of my purchased downloadable games on my old Wii, I promised I would give an update on the results of Nintendo's $65 repair program. Well, the repaired system came back this weekend, and I was finally able to transfer most of my saved and purchased content over to the Wii U. Of course, the ordeal wouldn't be complete without a few final hassles for good measure.

First, the bad news: the memory problem afflicting my launch-era Wii meant Nintendo had to replace the main circuit board for the system, including all the save data and personal settings that were contained on the Wii's internal system memory. Most of my important save files were backed up to an SD card, but I did lose the uncopiable save files for games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Mario Kart Wii. I'll have to play through those games again if I want to re-unlock the characters and courses I had already earned. Such is life. Frankly, I'm more relieved that my 100 percent completion files on games like Super Mario Galaxy and Punch-Out! were safe.

On the plus side, Nintendo also replaced the disc drive and cleaned the exterior of the system, so my six-year-old Wii is now practically factory fresh. The system came back with a new serial number, too, making me wonder why they didn't just give me an entirely new console when it was clear the memory was shot (then again, maybe they did).

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Nintendo's main focus right now may be on the newly launched Wii U, but that doesn't mean the company is ignoring the console's predecessor. Today, Nintendo announced the Wii Mini, a $100 black-and-red redesign of the Wii that will be sold exclusively in Canada, of all places, on December 7.

While the Wii Mini supports every Wii controller and all of the roughly 1,300 Wii games, it does not support legacy GameCube games and accessories (that support was also missing from a much-less-drastic 2011 redesign of the Wii hardware). A blog post at Best Buy Canada also suggests the system is missing the ability to play games online or download Virtual Console and WiiWare releases. The box includes one red Wii Remote Plus and Nunchuk, but no pack-in game.

It's a striking visual redesign for the aging hardware, with a red border and black top made of a textured plastic that couldn't be more different from the glossy black or white finish of the previous Wii hardware. A triangular power button with a small LED light sits in one corner of the top, and an Open button activates a manual, top-loading optical drive, which replaces the slot loader on the original Wii. The overall impression is that of a toy rather than a game console.

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